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Best Green Houses


Weaning Off Groundwater: A house prepares for water savings.

DesignBuild Collaborative


January 2010

By David Sokol

Just outside Phoenix, a suburb called Fountain Hills boasts a centerpiece lake in which a giant nub shoots water as much as 562 feet into the air, on every daylight hour for 15 minutes. This columnar height makes the 40-year-old fountain the second tallest of its kind in the world, and it exemplifies old-school Arizona’s attitude toward water consumption: wasteful, arrogant, naive.

Rincon Mountain Residence
Photo © Liam Frederick
Click the image above to tour this month’s Best Green House.

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More recently Arizonans are waking up to the scarcity of water. State code now allows graywater recycling for irrigation. Moreover, architects like DesignBuild Collaborative founder Paul Weiner, AIA, are readying their projects for rainwater reliance.

In a good year only 12 inches of precipitation land on greater Tucson, where the DesignBuild-designed Rincon Mountain Residence is located. “Here, the attitude about water is conserve,” Weiner says, adding, “We get about 50 percent of our moisture during the summer monsoon, so what you really need to do to conserve water is to store it for use in the dry season.”

Currently the property includes a 20,000-gallon cistern—“essentially a masonry basement waterproofed with ThoroSeal,” explains project architect Ian Regan, LEED AP—located underneath the workshop/utility building. The volume is filled with groundwater provided by the local utility, but this won’t always be the case…


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